October 15, 2007

Volleyball Improves Ivy Record With Two Wins

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Maybe it was the rowdy homecoming crowd, or maybe it was all the breast cancer supporters decked out in pink, but something seemed different in Newman Arena this weekend for the volleyball team. In contests against Harvard and Dartmouth, the Red finally shook off its confidence problems, fighting its way to back-to-back five-game victories.
With the wins, Cornell put a decisive end to its three-game losing streak, and moved to 6-9 overall and 3-2 in Ivy play.
Head coach Dietre Collins-Parker said that the team always knew it had the ability to play well.
“We just needed to do it [play well] for a longer period of time. We played with a lot of heart at the end when it mattered,” Collins-Parker said.
The wins could not have come at a better time. The young team has struggled in the past with errors and finishing, so the fact that they were able to come from behind two matches in a row was a confidence booster.
“It’s not easy for us right now,” Collins-Parker said, “So it was a really great win for us.”
Harvard struck first in the opening game winning, 30-17. History seemed to be repeating itself. But Cornell came back to pound out a game two win, 34-32.
“I was really hard on the team after game two because we would win a game and then not play so great, “ Collins-Parker said. “We didn’t want to be that team. We want to be fighters.”
Then Harvard surged back yet again, winning game three by another large margin, 30-17. Not to be outdone, Cornell battled back in game four with a close 30-26 win.
As the home crowd remained on their feet in the stands, Harvard again took an early lead in game five. But Cornell would not give up and evened the score, before outlasting Harvard to win the game, 16-14.
“I was very happy at the end of game five,” Collins-Parker said. “We took swings and made plays to win. And to put it away at the end just shows that we could win [another game five match].”
Collins-Parker said that the team’s gutsy performance on Friday night definitely made a difference when the team found itself faced in the same tough situation the next day against Dartmouth.
“Game 5 becomes strictly mental,” she said. “It goes by so fast compared to a 30-point game. Now all those errors really do count.”
Dartmouth had been undefeated in the Ivy League previous to Saturday’s match, but even this couldn’t slow Cornell’s momentum.
In the first game, Cornell stunned Dartmouth, 32-30. However, Dartmouth was not worried and came back strong to win the second game, 30-17. Dartmouth then took advantage of their own momentum surge, taking the third game 30-27.
The next two games were all Cornell, as they finished strong, taking the match in 30-28 and 15-12, respectively.
The weekend was a showcase for some of Cornell’s individual talent, as multiple players put up huge numbers in both games. Sophomore libero Meghan Mushovic shattered Cornell’s dig record in one match, besting the previous record of 39 with an impressive total of 50 digs.
“She was unbelievable,” Collins-Parker said. “The last record was set by a senior, so for the sophomore Meghan to have already broken it is incredible.”
The NCAA tracks players who rack up 30 or more digs, with its informal “30 Digs Club.”
“Obviously every single one of those digs is keeping us in the match,” Collins-Parker said.
Mushovic followed up her 50-dig night with 42 more against Dartmouth.
Junior setter Hilary Holland also had a huge weekend, recording a triple-double Friday, with 10 kills, 10 digs and an incredible 50 assists. Collins-Parker was quick to praise her player’s achievements, but also said that ultimately to win, the whole team has to step up together.
“It elevates you when somebody can elevate their game,” Collins-Parker said. “But it’s not just about the numbers.”
The most important thing the team got out of this weekend, Collins-Parker said, was hope.
“We won, but the thing that we know is we can still improve. I can’t worry about whether we are going to win championships, I just want to improve.”